The Tropicália music festival touched down at the Fairplex in Pomona, Calif. over the weekend. An eclectic array of artists across Latin music took to the multiple stages at the event on Saturday and Sunday. Veteran regional Mexican music favorites like Los Tigres del Norte and Paquita la del Barrio could be heard singing their hearts out near roaring rock en Español acts like Zoé and Enanitos Verdes. Latinx pop stars on the rise like Kali Uchis and Omar Apollo were also part of the mix. The festive Día de Los Muertos decorations and the rows of vendors selling various tacos only sweetened the deal. Remezcla was around to talk with some of the artists on the lineup and recap Tropicália’s best moments.
“I’ve done this festival pretty much every year that it’s happened and to grow to the point where I’m headlining it this year is amazing,” says Uchis backstage. The R&B singer-songwriter with Colombian roots was the main headliner on Sunday night and her placement reflected women finally getting their dues at events like Tropicália. “I think it’s great that festivals, companies, and everyone are trying to be more inclusive.”
There was more girl power where that came from during Uchis’ fierce set. Like Venus de Milo, who emerged from a clam to sing her hits like “Loner,” “Your Teeth in My Neck,” and “Just a Stranger.” Uchis’ hunky male dancers were at her beck and call as they carried her carried her around the stage when she wasn’t serving choreography on her own. Uchis even gave Radiohead’s “Creep” a sultry update. If there was a title for queen of Tropicália, she was heir to the throne.
Uchis revealed that her next album will be a Spanish-language (and partly Spanglish) one produced by reggaeton legend Tainy, due out next year. “It’s going to be exciting to reintroduce myself to my fans and give them a taste of what’s coming next,” she says.
Apollo on the rise
“Doesn’t that shit feel good?” Mexican-American singer Omar Apollo asked during his set. “Like that funky shit, baby?” The 22-year-old slid into Tropicália’s DMs with his smooth moves and bluesy falsetto in songs like “Ugotme,” “Kickback,” and his latest single “Hit Me Up.”
“I like to bring good energy, a lot of happy, uplifting energy when I perform,” Apollo says backstage. “I love performing. It’s really fun for me. I hope the people leave feeling a little lighter – that their spirit is a little lighter after seeing my show.”
Apollo’s flaming outfit was literal fire when he was jamming with his guitar in-hand. His hips weren’t lying either when they were moving to his Spanish-language track “Frío.” Apollo’s extraordinary set showed his gravitational pull as one next level pop star to watch out for.
Chicano Batman returns
Fusion rock band Chicano Batman brought down the house with their set that was colorful in every sense of the word. Wearing capes that spelled out an inspirational message about freedom, the guys had a jam session onstage and burned through tracks like “Joven Navegante,” “Jealousy,” and “Angel Child.” The influence behind their performance took meaning from the very title of the event.
“Tropicália is a musical movement that was introduced by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in Brazil in the 1960s,” says singer Bardo Martinez. “That’s where that term came from. It was named after this art piece by Helio Oiticica. The whole point of Tropicalia was about being free in a very oppressive society. We’re taking elements from that whole movement and bringing it into our presentation and visuals.”
Chicano Batman has been together for over a decade now. “We see that some members grow canas sooner than others,” bassist Eduardo Arenas jokes about the band. “Latin music has been around and it’s always evolving,” adds drummer Gabriel Villa. “We’re reflecting that. As a band we take on different genres as well. We represent different Latin roots from cumbia to Latin rock and roll.”
As for the future, guitarist Carlos Arévalo promises a new album next year produced by Leon Michels and Shawn Everett. “We challenged ourselves sonically and creatively how we could create new sounds with the four of us and the results are very exciting,” he says.
La Doña debuts
One of our recent Nuevo Noise features, Cecilia Peña-Govea, who goes by the stage name La Doña, made her debut at Tropicália this year. La Doña brought her special brand of what she calls “femmeton” music to the stage.
“Femmeton is basically a reiteration of reggaeton but centering along a feminist perspective,” she says. “My set includes reggaeton, boleros, hip-hop and like hyphy music. It’s really all over the place.” La Doña was true to her word, emerging in a bright pink outfit and seamlessly switching between Spanish and English on her bangers like “Le Lo Lai” and “Memorias Carmelas.”
“She’s a motherfucking queen,” La Doña says of her inspiration Ivy Queen, who sadly dropped out Tropicália last minute due to “scheduling conflicts” and was replaced by Mr. Capone-E.
Ed Maverick, a revelation
Mexican singer-songwriter Ed Maverick’s performed for the first time in the U.S. at Tropicália. With just his guitar in-hand, Maverick’s piercing voice gave us all the feels.
“When I started to write music, I saw it as a tool for me to express how I felt,” he says backstage. “It was a way for me to talk to someone who I didn’t know how to talk to because I felt shame in trying to express my feelings directly. It’s a way for me to get out my emotions.”
Maverick’s melancholic music that he calls “compas para compas” was even more haunting live. The 18-year-old beautifully belted “Fuentes de Ortiz,” “Acurrucar,” “A Mis Amigos” to a crowd that was already singing his words back to him. “I hope the people feel what I feel and connect with it,” Maverick says. With Tropicália kicking off his U.S. tour, he’s starting to lay down that foundation.